Latino Commission on AIDS Program Moderates HIV Stigma Discussion

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local NewsChristian Castro, program director of the Latino Commission on AIDS, moderated an expert panel discussion following a screening of the documentary, “A Mirror to the Heart: Breaking the Stigma of HIV/AIDS,” on Friday, June 24 at the McDermott/Haymarket Center in Chicago. “It’s disturbing that (HIV/AIDS) is still increasing in minority communities,” Castro said. To stop this increase, the Latino Commission on AIDS assists Hispanic-serving organizations and coalitions to address the needs of the emerging HIV-positive population.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the numbers of youth contracting HIV/AIDS are staggering, especially Hispanic and African-American youth. In 2009, an estimated 8,294 young men and women of all races and ethnicities age 13 to 24 received a diagnosis of HIV infection, representing about 19 percent of the persons given a diagnosis that year. Hispanics were disproportionately affected, accounting for about 15 percent of all HIV infections. African-Americans accounted for about 50 percent.

The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS can be so strong that HIV-positive individuals sometimes do not seek support even from family members, instead they turn to their friends for support, noted one panelist. The expert panel moderated by Castro included Alan D. Johnson, adolescent research director of the DePaul University School of Public Health; youth activist and artist KOKUMO; Youth Pride Center representative Andre Darey; Jovan Sharp from Youth Pride Services; Anthony Singleton; Ronnie Hughes; and Darius Mayfield. Among the HIV/AIDS-related issues addressed during the discussion were the prevalence of HIV among minority youth, HIV/AIDS stigma, and how HIV/AIDS affects heterosexuals and women, as well as gay men.

Sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health Center for Minority Health Services and BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS), the documentary highlights HIV prevention activities and the personal experiences of youth who are taking leadership roles in the fight against HIV/AIDS. To learn more about the documentary, go to Taskforce Prevention and Community Services provided HIV testing at the event.

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